Building » Harlech – St David in Seion

Harlech – St David in Seion

High Street, Harlech, LL46 2YA

A former Methodist chapel originally of 1814 and rebuilt in 1872 to the designs of Owen Morris Roberts. The chapel was converted to Catholic use in 1998, replacing a cottage chapel opened in 1952. The conversion was sensitively carried out, and the building largely retains its original chapel character, with a gallery on three sides, gated box pews, and raised pulpit, adapted in part to form the altar.  

By the late 1930s a small Catholic community had developed around Harlech, and the parish priest at Barmouth acquired the use of the town drill hall as a Mass centre. During the Second World War, prisoner of war camps and a Polish refugee camp were established on the outskirts of the town and Mass was held at these, with local Catholics permitted to attend. After the war the local Catholic community purchased a derelict cottage on the outskirts of the town to convert for use as a chapel. James O’Donahue of Liverpool was architect for the adaptation of the chapel, dedicated to St David and a chapel-of-ease to Barmouth, which opened in 1952. It accommodated about fifty people, and had a small gallery to accommodate increased numbers during the summer months. Furnishings included a slate altar set within the old fireplace, surmounted by a crucifix from Oberammergau in Germany, a carved oak statue of St David by the Benedictines of Farnborough Abbey, and a sixth century Christian lamp donated by Miss Clarissa Graves and formerly belonging to Dr Charles Graves, the Protestant Bishop of Limerick.

In 1982 the chapel was reordered and the altar brought forward. It was however too small to accommodate both the regular congregation and tourists, and the Church in Wales gave permission for the church of St Tanwg to be used for Mass during the summer months. A more permanent solution was found in 1998 when the former Seion Methodist Chapel in the town centre was purchased and converted for Catholic use. Adaptation of the interior was undertaken by members of the Catholic community and after opening the cottage chapel was sold.


The church was originally constructed in 1814, rebuilt in 1872 to designs of Owen Morris Roberts of Porthmadog, and enlarged in 1885. It was adapted for Catholic use in 1998. The west front has randomly coursed, quarry-dressed local grey granite walling with ashlar dressings, elsewhere the walls are rubble coursed, while the roof is slate. Typical of many nineteenth century Welsh Nonconformist chapels, the building is a gable-entry type, with two entrances flanking central round-headed windows. The church is of three bays, the windows have modern timber frames with slate sills and. A stone-built store and WC is at the rear.

The interior consists of two small entrance areas to the north and south with stairs up to the gallery, and a sacristy/meeting room between. The gallery is supported on iron columns, and has raked fixed benches around three sides, higher at the back; the panelled gallery front is topped by a short painted balustrade. The nave retains its pitch pine box pews, with a wide central bank separated by circulation alleys from two shorter banks under the galleries. The floor covering throughout is carpet.

The sanctuary is up one step; the altar has been constructed using sections of stained pine balustrading, matching the original stepped pulpit. The modern tabernacle was acquired from Llandudno, and has an embossed loaves and fishes detail; it is wall mounted at the east end within an oversized neoclassical painted timber surround. In the east wall are two round-headed windows with coloured lights at the top, matching the pair at the west end, and there is an exit on the north side of the east wall.

At the east end of the north aisle is the font, of pine with a hinged lid, given in memory of Mildred Allen Bebington. The Stations of the Cross are modern and ceramic. There is a modern wall mounted carved oak sculpture of Our Lady and the Holy Infant, maker and provenance not established. A wall-mounted oak statue of St David is by the Benedictines of Farnborough Abbey. At the back of the church a framed embroidered altar front is decorated with the Lamb of God and sacramental emblems; its provenance has not been established. 

Heritage Details

Architect: Owen Morris Roberts

Original Date: 1872

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed